Ojai is a beautiful haven hidden in the Ventura County northwest of Los Angeles and east of Santa Barbara. Some know Ojai for its expansive vineyards and farmland, but to those who reading this profile, Ojai is exciting because of its untapped and raw natural beauty. Ojai, which gets its name from the Chumash word ‘awhay, meaning moon. Although the Chumash Indians had no idea when they named this place that it would be within spitting distance of one of the biggest cities in the world, it still seems rather applicable. Ojai seems far enough away from the city to be the moon, and it is indeed special in that same exotic.
What Makes It Great
There is a whole lot to do in Ojai, California, but this particular entry is about the North Fork Matilija Creek Trail. It is a bit tricky to get to (see below) and once you are there it is not incredibly easy to find your way. There is a map at the trail head to look at, but unfortunately none to take. Look at it closely or take some notes so you have a reference as you hike.
From the first gate, take the road as it passes by The Matilija Canyon Ranch. After around ¾ mile, you will see the North Fork Matilija Trail on the right. If you see another trailhead on the left, you have gone too far. After around 1.5 miles of creek bed crossing (wear hikable sandals or shoes you are ok with getting wet) you’ll arrive at The Matilija Trail Camp. There are no facilities here, but you can camp overnight if you bring everything you will need.
From the camp, the trail will continue up the canyon. At the three mile mark, you will pass another camp (this one unnamed), at this point it will definitively cross the creek and start gaining elevation via a series of switchback. After 4 miles, you will arrive at the Middle Matilija Camp, a small camp right next to the creek. It is at this point that the trail will begin to be a little bit less discernible, and may be difficult to navigate. It is advisable to turn back here and make your way back to the car.
Do not let the confusion of the hike deter you! This hike has an amazing array of flora and fauna to view along with fairly spectacular panoramas when you reach elevation.
Who is Going to Love It
This hike is not necessarily for everyone; a few parts of it make it difficult to do if you are not ready to get wet, perhaps a bit lost and are ready to have an adventure. The best part of this hike is the exciting feeling of exploration you get working your way through this epic, and slightly rough terrain. It is wise to do this hike with a partner or more, as it not very well traveled.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Follow directions to the middle of Ojai, which is easiest to get via Route 33 out of Venture, CA. Follow Route 33 through Ojai and take a left on Forest Route 5N13 about 5 miles past the junction with CA route 150. Take Route 5N13 5.5 Miles until you get to the gate for the North Fork Matilija Creek Trail. You can park here for as long as you want during the day, but check with local experts for overnight parking restrictions as they are subject to change if you are going to stay out overnight.